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Women's World Chess Championship 2012: Humpy, Harika, Soumya lead Indian Challenge

Reigning women's world chess champion, Hou Yifan of China, draws a white pawn at the colourful opening ceremony that took place in Khanty-Mansiysk earlier today.RUSSIA: Grandmaster Koneru Humpy will take on Denise Frick of South Africa in the first rou...

RUSSIA: Grandmaster Koneru Humpy will take on Denise Frick of South Africa in the first round of the World Women’s chess championship on Sunday.

Looking for an elusive world title, Humpy starts as the highest rated player in the 64-player knockout event that will have almost all the top-rated women players of the world.

For Humpy this is another chance to have a go at the World title that the Indian has been missing for last two times. The first round should be an easy outing as Denise Frick is rated over 700 points below Humpy. The Andhra-girl had lost to reigning champion Yifan Hou of China in a match played in Albania last year, while prior to that Humpy was ousted in the semifinals when it was also held in a knock-out format.

Yifan is also here as the defending champion and she starts as a firm favourite for the crown despite her slightly lower rating than Humpy. The 18-year-old Chinese girl has already won the world championship twice and is a feared opponent even in the men’s circles. Her inclusion as an invited player in the Tata Steel Chess tournament in early January is a just an indication of the same, and there, Yifan will get to play with the likes of Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana among others.

While the Indian challenge is spearheaded by Humpy, D. Harika is the other Indian who can make her presence felt. Being crowned a Grandmaster like Humpy now, Harika has been a steady player in the past few years and in the last world championship she too had raced till the semis before being knocked out.

In the first round, Harika meets compatriot Soumya Swaminathan. While Humpy qualifies here naturally, Harika has made it being the Asian champion in 2011 while Soumya qualified by winning the Indian championship of 2010.

India has been given zone status by FIDE – the game’s apex body – and hence, every alternate year the Indian premier championships have one qualifying berth to the World Cup or World Championships.

Unlike last year, when the World Championship match was played with a Euro 200,000 prize fund, the knock-out format ensures a little booty to everyone. The first round losers will take home about 3000 USD (a little over Rs 150,000) after FIDE’s 20 per cent payments, while the winner of the championship will be richer by USD 48,000/- (Around Rs 25 lakh).

Not without reasons, the major chunk of players come from the host country with as many as 12 players in the fray. There are seven Chinese players in all to make it a very competitive field.

To many in the chess world, the rechristening of the World Women’s Cup as World Championship came as a surprise. Also the format for the next World Championship now changes with participation of Yifan here.

As things stand, the winner of this World Championship will play a match Yifan next year and in case Yifan Hao reclaims the honor, Humpy has already qualified to challenge her in the next World Championship match.

Humpy will benefit if Yifan wins it again in case the Indian does not win herself. In that case, Humpy will be assured of another shy at the title in a one-on-one match with Yifan. The knock-out format is obviously more grueling and is also called a ‘lottery’ by some chess pundits.

Each round will have two games apart from a day reserved for tiebreak games of shorter duration in the event of a deadlock. The final will be played over four games.

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